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Park student gives up basketball for snowboarding

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As a high school basketball player, Zoe Mayers was in an envious position. After all, she started at point guard as a sophomore for Park and appeared to be on track to be a team co-captain this winter.

It's just that as devoted as the Reisterstown resident was to basketball, she decided to give it up for a greater passion — snowboarding.

"It was a really tough decision not to play, because I really love basketball," said Mayers, who started playing basketball as a 7-year-old in the Reisterstown Rec program.

Despite devoting hours of her time on the court, she also was also honing her moves on the slopes.

"I'm good at it," Mayers said. "I just want people to recognize me for that," she said. "I do it because it kind of puts me in a little zone. When I'm having a bad day, snowboarding can lift me away."

Her current status as a snowboarder is what is referred to as "repflow," which Mayers says is somewhere beyond amateur status, but not quite a professional, either.

The 5-foot-4 dynamo is good enough to have earned six sponsorships from several snowboard and snowboard accessory manufacturers, which provide her with snowboards, eyewear, boots, sweat shirts and hats. She estimates she's totaled about $1,000 worth of free equipment this winter.

Mayers nabbed her first sponsorship two years ago, a year after her first competition, the TransAm, in Big Boulder, Pa., near the Poconos.

Since then, she's competed in about 15 other events in the mid-Atlantic area.

"She's well on her way" to becoming a professional, said Aaron Wilson, owner of Funtastik, a snowboarding business in Mechanicsburg, Pa., which is one of Mayers' sponsors. "She rides very aggressively for a girl. She has that drive and motivation to keep moving forward, which is what it takes to be a good rider. She wants to get out and ride the best terrain in the best parks."

That's the main reason why Mayers will be spending a semester this fall semester at Windells Academy, in Oregon, a hotbed of the sport.

Even more essential than competitions at this stage in her career is what she calls "filming," which is posting videos of her snowboarding on the Internet as an important showcase for her sponsors.

If you want to see how challenging the sport is at Mayers' level, just punch her name into YouTube and watch her travel at breakneck speed across the tops of narrow metal stair rails or jump from heights as high as 35 feet.

"My overall goal is to go pro," she said, knowing that to reach that level means a big time commitment.

Four or five days a week, she drives or rides with friends and fellow snowboarders an hour each way to Ski Liberty Mountain Resort in Fairfield, Pa. or 90 minutes to Roundtop Mountain Resort in Wellsville, Pa.

One-week and two-week camps in Oregon every summer for the last four years and snowboarding in Utah, Colorado and California have also sharpened her skills.

Mayers, who is an A-student, is even centering her college plans around snowboarding.

If things work out, she will end up at a school in either Colorado, Vermont, New Hampshire or Utah.

"She has a huge skill-set and a lot of athletic ability," Wilson said. "She is constantly bettering herself to get where she wants to go. She has really established herself. She's competed in a lot of local events and after that, you start getting involved in national events."

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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